Last time on The Shannara Chronicles, Wil and Amberle were cornered by a big flappity demon. It was great– the thing had just knocked Allanon off a cliff and killed Amberle’s aunt, and Wil was heroically preparing to defend her with a dinky little knife. How will our heroes get out of this jam?
Allanon runs over and decapitates the demon in 300-style speed-ramped slow motion. And for a second there I thought Wil might actually do something.
After they’ve gotten out of demon-vicinity, Wil and Allanon awkwardly tell Amberle that all of the other Chosen, including her sort-of boyfriend, were brutally murdered. She takes this about as well as you’d expect and runs off. Wil goes to comfort her while Allanon realizes he’s sustained one of those Hollywood gaping side wounds that you only notice once the action has died down.
This bit is hilarious because Wil’s actor isn’t very good and mumbles half his lines in a way that makes him sound a bit like Nicholas Cage, so he just sort of stares open-mouthed at Amberle and tells her about how “I lost muh mawm last week”. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that every single dramatic scene in this show is accompanied by a Dramatic Song playing softly in the background.
Allanon thankfully collapses from blood loss to save us from all this drama, and instructs Amberle and Wil to take him to a nearby “druid cave.” Once they get there Allanon tells them to get to the Elcryss and leave him to die, but Wil decides to be a badass and go to the nearby (everything in this show seems to be near everything else) silver river, whose mud is reputed to have healing properties.
The show takes a wild stagger toward being compelling, as the king and his son discuss some Serious Shit that happened in the past. Then it turns out that the Prince’s angst is caused by the fact that his brother was murdered by gnomes and BWAHAHAHA GNOMES.
I recently binge-watched season five of Game of Thrones while recovering from back troubles, and while I still have a lot of problems with that show, it’s startling how much deeper and more substantial it is compared to this nonsense. Two characters having a conversation that isn’t about sparkly magical bullshit feels like a revelation.
Wil tells Amberle that he’s a Shannara, and she’s like “omg bb that’s way awesome liek woah” and he’s all “wtf what even is a shannara smh.”
Amberle insists she’s not going back to Elftown after they save Allanon, because she thinks she caused the Elcryss to start dying when she had her vision after the Chosen race. For some reason, Wil just vaguely waves these concerns away instead of telling her that the situation isn’t her fault or explaining why she needs to go back and what’s at stake.
Wil gets sexy and dives into the river for some mud; when he comes back up, Eritrea and her rovers have Amberle at knife-point. They get dragged off in chains and engage in hilarious banter about how fucking stupid Wil is, which I’m always down for, and Amberle unsuccessfully tries to goad Eritrea into fighting her, which gets her head-butted into unconsciousness for her trouble.
Wil tries to tell Eritrea that there’s more to her than just robbing and killing people. Based on… what, exactly? They’ve interacted all of two times: the first time she drugged him and stole his possessions, the second time she held a knife to his friend’s throat and took them both hostage. Why would be possibly conclude that she has Hidden Depths or whatever?
Back at the Rover camp, Eritrea’s surprisingly-sympathetic Dad offers Wil a chance to Rove with them as a healer. But behind the scenes, he tells Eritrea his real plan: he wants Wil to tell him how to activate the Elfstones, and he’s planning on having Eritrea threaten to murder Amberle to get him to talk.
Dude, there are like a million easier ways to do that. Wil already said he’s desperate to leave so he can save Allanon, just claim you’ll let him go if he spills the beans. Not that it will help since Wil has no idea how to use them, but Eritredad doesn’t know that.
Back at the Druid Cave, Allanon is also getting his half-naked groove on. And healed!
Did he know that was going to happen? If so, why didn’t he tell Wil and Amberle that he’d be fine? Then they wouldn’t have wasted time going for the mud, and they wouldn’t have been captured.
Damn, Amberle’s a fucking badass.
Eritrea decides that while she does really want to kill Amberle, she wants to do it on her own terms instead of being ordered around by her abusive asshole dad, so she offers Amberle a chance to punch her in the face and escape. Amberle decides to take her hostage like a boss instead.
Unfortunately the plan backfires because it turns out Eritradad doesn’t care if his daughter gets her throat cut open. Things are looking bad for our heroes when another flappity demon arrives.
Suddenly… the Elfstones start to glow with cheap swirly CGI effects!
Given how important these things are to the plot, you’d think the show’s creators would take the time to not make them look like total garbage. Apparently they had the budget for really quite impressive CG demons and Elven vistas, but not for this.
This episode’s Wil-Face isn’t quite as strong as the previous examples.
BY YOUR POWERS COMBINED, I AM… A BUNCH OF STUPID NONSENSE NO ONE CARES ABOUT!
Luckily, it turns out that just pointing the Elfstones at demons is in fact the correct way to use them.
No wait, I was wrong. This Wil-Face is the best Wil-Face. Although to be fair, there’s no way the actor could have known how indescribably terrible the special effects would be.
Anyway, Wil laser-punches the demon, Amberle and Eritrea drag him into a hut after he falls unconscious, Amberle once again acts like a giant badass but is disabled by Eritradad, then Allanon shows up and saves her.
Cut to a forest at daytime, where Amberle and Allanon have successfully extracted Wil. Did the Rovers try to stop them? How did Eritrea react to all of this? No idea, we don’t find out. It’s really jarring.
That’s probably not a good sign.
Wil goes into a nearby barn to puke, and hears something banging around behind a locked barn. Amberle decides to break the door open and investigate, and Allanon is apparently fine with this somewhat questionable course of action. Behind the door they find a dude chained up and wearing some sort of steel mask.
Once he’s de-masked he tells them his name is Bandon, and that his parents (the two corpses hanging around in the picture above) are the ones who locked him up, although he won’t tell them why. Amberle is all for bringing him to Elftown with them, but Allanon reveals something distressing: he can’t read Bandon’s thoughts, which means he’s either using magic without letting them know, or he has magic powers he’s not aware of. Amberle’s like “lol don’t care” and Allanon and Wil put up no further argument, even though this situation raises like a billion red flags.
Meanwhile, back at Rover Central, Eritrea is about to flee when her dad accosts her and orders her to bring him the Elfstones if she wants her freedom.
Why doesn’t she pretend she’s heading off to find the Elfstones, then just fucking not come back? How long would it take her dad to realise he’d been played, and isn’t there a good chance he’d just assume she died or something? This world seems to be mostly vast tracts of empty wilderness, it wouldn’t be hard to disappear.
I get what they’re going for here, but Eritrea has been shown to have far too much agency and ability for the situation to bring the kind of tension it’s aiming for.
Wil and co arrive back in Elftown. When Amberle touches Bandon’s shoulder, he gets a flash of her Elcryss-vision and reacts with obvious shock– but then doesn’t tell Amberle about it. Okay, this plot element is actually starting to get kind of interesting. I want to know what this guy’s deal is (it helps that the actor playing him is by far the best in the series so far).
Unfortunately that’s immediately followed by a monumentally stupid plot point where the Elven Council won’t let Amberle back into the Elcryss because she broke her Chosen vow by running away. Even though Allanon straight-up told them all that she needs to go to the Elcryss to stop Demonpalooza from starting, and her father, the king, believes him.
Oh and Wil decides he’s going to abandon his epic destiny and fuck off to go be a healer. Bye Wil!
But then Bandon comes along and says that if Wil doesn’t go to Safehold with Amberle, something terrible will happen. He either won’t or can’t explain how he knows this (it seems like the latter), so Wil is understandably skeptical.
At the elven council, the king is all for having Amberle take the Elcryss’ seed to Safehold on an epic quest, but his son (…who Amberle calls her uncle so I guess the king is her grandfather? I’m getting the Elven lineage confused because I don’t care about it) still insists that demons don’t real and this is all a plot by gnomes or something.
Here’s what I don’t get: part of his objection is based on the fact that the king has spent years telling everyone (for some reason) that magic doesn’t exist any more; Allanon can do magic. We saw him do it. Why doesn’t he do it now to shut this smug douchebag up? It wouldn’t prove the demons are real, but it would be proof that the king is telling the truth about one major component of all of this, which would surely go a long way toward convincing people that he’s right about all of it.
Wil shows up before things can get too exciting and tells them all that Allanon and Amberle are right, and since Allanon reveals that he’s of the Shannaran bloodline, they listen.
Amberle has to enter the Elcryss (it turns out there’s a door in the base), if she’s committed to carrying its seed she’ll receive it, if she isn’t she’ll die for some reason, she goes in and it’s all very dramatic.
HEY LET’S NOT WATCH ANY MORE OF THIS. I think I’ve seen enough to adequately summarize its many problems: wildly inconsistent effects and set-dressing of both the CG and practical variety, terrible acting, the story is bullshit to begin with and doesn’t seem to have been adapted with any degree of skill. There’s genuine creativity in some of the visuals and the blending of fantasy and post-apocalyptic elements, but that’s about all the show has going for it.
We’re going to do one more Eragon post, and then there’s a certain movie I want to write about in order to finish something we started last year. After that, more Wheel of Time.